The Carson City Morgan Silver Dollar of 1885
By Joel D. Rettew, Sr.
The mint in Carson City, Nevada operated from 1870 through 1893, with a three-year shutdown from 1886 through 1888, thus giving us a total of 21 years of actual operation. Although the Carson City Mint struck other denominations in both gold and silver, it is best known for its production of Morgan silver dollars.
While Carson City dollars are familiar to most coin collectors—and even coveted by many—one issue stands out from the rest: The 1885-CC dollar. The main reason why the 1885-CC is special is due to its extremely low mintage of only 228,000 pieces. Out of the 97 regular issues of Morgan dollars produced from 1878 through 1921, the 1885-CC Morgan dollar is ranked third in terms of the lowest recorded mintage. In fact, the 1885-CC dollar boasts a mintage that is even smaller than the far more expensive 1889-CC (350,000 coins). PCGS pricing guide in MS65 is $285,000.00.
The lowest mintage Morgan dollar title goes to the 1893-S, PCGS pricing guide in MS65 is $650,000.00 and followed closely by the 1894 in second place. In my opinion the 1885-CC dollar is undervalued and the best buy of all the Morgan silver dollars. I look for and buy 1885-CC dollars whenever I find them available, and you should too.
For many years after its production, the 1885-CC dollar remained an elusive rarity. In fact, during the turn of the 19th Century, 1885-CC dollars were recorded as selling for more than the rarest of all Morgan dollars—the 1895 proof-only issue, of which 880 pieces were minted. The reason for this phenomenon is that nearly the entire mintage of 1885-CC Morgan dollars were hidden in U.S. treasury vaults until the 1930s. At that time, small quantities were obtained by a few coin dealers, and that again happened in the 1940s and yet again in the 1950s, according to research conducted by Q. David Bowers.
Most of the 1885-CC dollars, however, were not released until the famed Government Services Administration (G.S.A) mail bid sales of 1972-74. It is documented that 148,285 85-CC dollars were sold via the G.S.A. between 1972 and 1980, which was the final mail bid sale. Bowers opines that approximately 25,000 pieces were melted as a result of the Pitman Act of 1918. That puts the balance of 1885-CC dollars at around 200,000 coins, thus leaving roughly 50,000 coins unaccounted for. According to Bowers, those 50,000 coins “became largely lost, strayed or melted.”
More than any other Carson City Morgan dollar issue, the 1885-CC is hands-down the most difficult to locate in circulated grades. This issue simply was not released into circulation. The few circulated examples that are known likely found their way into the channels of commerce by chance over the years. For example, some may have been used as pocket pieces, or accidentally spent.
I remember an event that occurred in 1968, where I had sold an 1885-CC dollar to a good customer who was building a circulated Morgan dollar set. I had presented him with a nice Uncirculated example, which he promptly refused to accept. He wanted all of the coins in his set to have the same circulated appearance. At a coin show that I attended in the same year, I found a nice, circulated 1885-CC dollar in another dealer’s case, and I eagerly offered to purchase the coin for what I though was a fair price.
The dealer refused to budge on his price, stating that it was very difficult to obtain a circulated 1885-CC dollar. He was correct, and I quickly found a solution to my problem. I offered to trade him my Gem BU 1885-CC dollar, for his circulated example, PLUS $10 and he accepted the deal making me and my customer happy.
So if you’re interested in a 1885-CC in BU then click on the button below. I am confident that if you add one to your collection that you will never be sorry you did.